Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Blaze in roof vexes firefighters; origin undetermined

 


The origin of a fire in the roof of an Oslund Drive house that caused $75,000 or more in damage May 8 is still under investigation, Haines Borough fireman Al Badgley said this week.

Firefighters dumped about 10,000 gallons of water on the blaze that burned between the building’s upstairs ceiling and roof, making it difficult to pinpoint and extinguish.

The fire was reported at 2:33 p.m. on May 8. Deborah Young and her 22-year-old son Michael Paul were in the house when the fire started, and escaped uninjured. The home, near the intersection of Oslund and Young Road, is owned by former resident Bill Hartmann.

Young said she was upstairs vacuuming and discovered flames five feet high on an exterior wall of the house, next to a west-facing door, after she came downstairs. Michael Paul grabbed a bucket and kept the flames from spreading into the kitchen, she said.

“(The fire) just kind of crawled up inside the roof between the ceiling and the roof joists,” fireman Badgley said. “We couldn’t put water on the top to reach it and we couldn’t put it in from the bottom.”

Firefighters tried tearing up sections of roofing to reach flames but when that didn’t work, poured water into the roof lengthwise from a hole near the peak, a slow process, Badgley said. “We’d get it almost knocked down and it would start up again. You’d have to put (the water) in that one little space and let it diffuse down.”

Safety concerns kept firefighters from climbing onto the roof, he said. Firefighters were on the scene until 5 p.m.

A burn pattern on the building’s west wall suggests the fire spread upwards from two areas on the outside deck, the flames climbing the outside wall and entering the roof at the soffits. But what would have started a fire there wasn’t evident, and the area was disturbed by hose water, Badgley said.

Young said besides some old greeting cards, the only things on the porch were a bucket containing compost, and some tools, nails and screws. Only a few minutes before the fire broke out, she fed some cats there. “There’s nothing there that would have started a fire. (The fire) didn’t happen until I went upstairs and started to vacuum. I don’t know what else would have started it.”

Young said she believed that aging wiring in the building may have triggered the blaze.

In a phone interview from Nevada, Hartmann said the building was insured for fire. “We’re already working to get everything restored to what was there before. The whole upstairs will have to be rebuilt.”

The building dates to the 1950s, when a flat-roofed section near Oslund Drive was built. Hartmann added a peaked, two-story addition in the late 1970s. “The old part (of the house) was untouched,” Hartmann said.

Young said she was grateful for the quick response of the fire department and support from the community that her family has since received.

Badgley said 17 firefighters and two fire trucks responded to the blaze. The department received Young’s call at 2:33 p.m. and firefighters were on scene at 2:38 p.m ., he said.

He said it was difficult to speculate what, if any role, recent dry weather played in the start or spread of the blaze.

The borough lifted a ban on open burning Sunday morning, following the area’s first rain in several weeks.

Badgley said those wishing to burn need new permits for the year and pre-fire inspections are required for burning piles larger than a pickup truck. The department’s phone number is 766-2115.